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Once his final swim of the U.S. Olympic Trials was done and he finally had a moment to reflect, the notion it was over Sunday night stirred a myriad of emotions in Michael Phelps.
His win in Sunday’s final of the 100-meter butterfly before an appreciative crowd of 12,406 at CenturyLink Center was the final U.S. Trials swim for America’s most prolific Olympic medalist.
Phelps earned his fourth gold medal, clinched his fifth berth in an individual event and confirmed his intent to swim the same program that he did four years ago in Beijing at the London Olympics beginning July 28.
An hour after winning the 100 fly in 51.14 — when Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman met with the media — the reality of his decision to retire from competitive swimming following the Olympics was reflected in Phelps’ words, facial expressions and body language.
“This is my last one on American soil, my last Olympic Trials swim,” Phelps said. “It’s crazy to think about 12 years ago I made my first team. Definitely a lot of memories and I guess emotions running through my head.”
As he watched 15-year-old Katie Ledecky earn her first Olympic berth by winning the 800 freestyle after his 100 fly win — and one day after his 27th birthday — Phelps said a few fond memories surfaced. Phelps was 15 when he qualified for his first Olympics at the 2000 U.S. Trials.
His ninth victory in 10 events over the past two U.S. Trials in Omaha didn’t come easy. Phelps was in sixth place at 50 meters, and among those ahead of him were eventual silver medalist Tyler McGill, spades partner Ryan Lochte and Tim Phillips, who set a fast pace by getting to the turn in 23.62 seconds.
Phelps got to that point in 24.30.
Phelps said it was a pretty bad first 50 “and a pretty terrible finish,” he said. “I should have taken another stroke. Didn’t feel great, didn’t feel terrible.”
That final 50 may not have been up to Phelps’ usual standards, but he still was the only finalist to return to the start in under 27 seconds. McGill came home in 27.12 to earn his first Olympic berth by touching in 51.32.
Lochte was third in 51.65 in an event he didn’t have to, but wanted to, swim. Lochte already was headed to London as the U.S. Trials champion in the 400 individual medley and 200 backstroke.
“It was kind of my call to swim that,” Lochte said. “It was something that I’ve never done before at a big swim meet. I was like, ‘You know what, let’s just do it. It will be fun.’ ”
Lochte also said he had not tapered for this meet, that his big rest was being saved for the weeks leading up to London.
“This meet was a training meet,” Lochte said. “This morning I had a practice. I wanted to go out at the end of this meet knowing that there is so much left. I haven’t rested.
“So I know that, come London, I’ll have that full taper, I’ll be fully rested and hopefully I’ll be a lot faster.”
Phelps also hasn’t had his big rest and knows he has a lot more in his tank.
“Like I said to you guys before, over the last four years, I haven’t really done anything so I haven’t been able to handle too much,” Phelps said. “So being able to handle or have what happened this week shows I can handle a little more.
“But there are still some things that need to be perfected over the next couple of weeks.”
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